On Thursday, September 5, an evening seminar was held in Vancouver, Washington to discuss Right to Work legislation and how it could benefit the states of Washington and Oregon. The seminar, co-hosted by the Freedom Foundation of Olympia and the Cascade Policy Institute, featured Vincent Vernuccio of the Mackinac Center and Harry Beck of the Supreme Court Case, Beck v CWA. Participants paid $10 each to hear how Michigan beat the odds to enact Right to Work legislation and how it’s changed the state.
Instead of allowing a discussion to take place, several union members crashed the party, screaming at participants, getting arrested and even spitting on the keynote speaker.
One eyewitness sent me an account of what happened, along with video. This eyewitness has requested anonymity, fearing reprisals from the unions.
Freedom “Ruins Everything,” Unions Protest
Three words strike fear into the hearts of union leaders: “Right to Work.” At the mere mention of the phrase, unions in lockstep intimidate, harass, and bully those who dare to question what’s best for American workers.
Little did I know I’d be experiencing this first hand.
As a young conservative striving to find a foothold in a challenging economy, I was intrigued by the Northwest Employee Freedom event about right-to-work legislation. Held jointly by Oregon’s Cascade Policy Institute and Washington’s Freedom Foundation, labor experts including “top union watchdog” Vincent Vernuccio from the Mackinac Center would be coming to Vancouver to discuss labor reform and strategies for increasing employee freedom across the country.
I was looking forward to an intellectual discussion from these leading minds, but others insisted on being heard that evening.
From the moment my companions and I pulled up to the Clark College parking lot, already having fought our way through a drenching Northwest downpour, we realized another battle lay ahead. A cluster of people waving signs obstructed the driveway. Standing in the crosswalk to slow down cars, one man snapped pictures of every license plate as we drove in. Intimidation: Chapter One.
Chapter Two awaited us at the building entrance. Another crowd milled around the doors bearing more signs, daring any one of us to call them out. “He threatened to punch me if I didn’t get out of the crosswalk,” complained one would-be victim about another event attendee. “Let’s call the police on him.” One man held a sign stating, “Right 2 Work short changes your wallet” and admonished us, “Shame on you!” as we walked by without comment. “Right to work ruins society,” intoned another protester. “Ruins everything.”
The only thing being ruined at that moment was the educational forum we were yet to reach. Protesters in the hallway hovered as we presented our tickets, trying to join their compatriots who had already shouldered their way inside.
We entered the room to find sheer chaos – men with signs and bullhorns flanked the perimeter, surrounding participants who sat at tables watching the spectacle in disbelief. Vincent Vernuccio, the featured speaker, was countering the amplified voices with his brash New York attitude, giving no quarter as the men tried to hold the event hostage. “It’s our meeting now!” one bullhorned protester proudly proclaimed, as if sheer volume somehow translated to being king of the sandhill.
Chanting then broke out. “Hey hey, ho ho, union busting’s got to go! Hey hey, ho ho…” Another shouting match ensued. “Who is paying your wages?” demanded one protester. “What are your biggest donors, your biggest contributors?” Ah yes, because unions are clearly in favor of financial transparency.
The situation continued out of hand until police arrived to a round of applause, escorting out the union trespassers and arresting one man who tried to insist that he was being “profiled.”
“Back to our regularly scheduled programming,” Vincent, the speaker, quipped. “If you’re not getting flak, it means you’re not over the target!”
The event itself proved incredibly illuminating. Harry Beck, famous for union workers’ “Beck rights” to pay only those dues not used for political purposes, cited Governor Kitzhaber’s Labor Day speech as a classic example of the hypocrisy inherent in the anti-right-to-work movement.
“Kitzhaber gives women the right to an abortion, or not. He gives seniors the right to die with dignity, or not. But he won’t give public sector workers, who are specially trained, who carry guns, who protect us, who we trust to teach our children – he won’t give them the right to choose whether to be in a union, or not. Why? Because they’re not smart enough?”
“Right-to-work isn’t about union dues. It’s about choice. It’s about freedom,” he emphasized.
Freedom to make unions have to earn their dues. Freedom to hold them accountable to the members that they claim to represent. Freedom from fear of the retaliation and intimidation tactics on which they rely.
Hey hey, ho ho, freedom helps workers, don’t ya know?
Here is the first video, showing protesters at the entrance to the event:
Here is another video showing the fireworks inside:
The story has caught the attention of The Blaze, where another video of the worst parts of the protests and the arrests has been posted.
The Cascade Policy Institute put out the following press release regarding the incident:
Angry protesters reject proposals for
employees’ freedom to choose
Attendees and Speaker Harassed at Northwest Employee Freedom Event
VANCOUVER, Wa. – Several dozen union protesters marched outside Clark College’s Columbia Tech Center in Vancouver on Thursday evening. The hostile group tried to block attendees from entering the event venue scheduled to hold the first Northwest Employee Freedom One Night Event, jointly sponsored by Cascade Policy Institute of Portland, Oregon and The Freedom Foundation of Olympia, Washington.
After yelling, harassing, and shoving event attendees and organizers, protesters entered the venue and began shouting and using bullhorns to disrupt the event. The keynote speaker, Mackinac Center for Public Policy’s labor expert Vincent Vernuccio, was also spat on by a protester. The Vancouver Police Department was called and escorted protesters out of the event center. The two who refused to leave were arrested for trespassing.
This peaceful gathering of Washingtonians and Oregonians was meant to educate them on the story of how Michigan secured the freedom for all of its public and private sector employees to choose whether or not they want to be represented by a union without financial consequences.
“This kind of behavior is most saddening because it shows a real lack of understanding of what Cascade Policy Institute wants for Oregon,” said Cascade founder Steve Buckstein.
“We do not seek to end unions or union representation. We simply want all Oregonians to have the right to choose whether or not union membership and representation is something they desire for themselves,” he said. “All Oregonians deserve that right, even those who reject our efforts.”
“At the end of the day, this is a fight for freedom and justice. No amount of harassment or intimidation will change that fact,” he ended.